clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Thursday evening Cardinal news and notes

Eat it, Marquette.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

—It’s another huge game at the KFC Yum Center for the Louisville women’s team, which will host No. 15 Syracuse tonight at 7. Here’s a preview.

— recaps Louisville’s national signing day.

—Jordan Nwora’s father says he and his son haven’t even discussed the possibility of Jordan making an early leap to the NBA.

But his father, Alex Nwora, told the Courier Journal on Wednesday that nothing is determined.

“If I’m being honest, we are not even thinking of that right now,” Alex Nwora said. “He wants to win in the (NCAA) tournament, to see if he can win a national championship. If the NBA is going to happen, if he’s that good, it’ll find him.

”We’re not even talking about it right now. ... He has a chance to do something special at Louisville if they make a great run. At the end of of the year if it’s worth it we will sit down with Coach (Chris) Mack and see if that’s in the best interest of Jordan.”

—Heading into tonight’s game, the Louisville women’s home games are currently averaging more fans than the UCLA, UConn and Texas men’s teams, and 10 of the men’s teams in the ACC.

—”Katina Powell jailed in toothbrush theft case” is the real headline we all should have seen coming.

—Bleacher Report lists Louisville as one of the biggest winners of the 2018-19 college basketball season so far.

Winner: Louisville Cardinals

There are a bunch of teams exceeding expectations, but none more so than Louisville.

After losing Deng Adel, Anas Mahmoud, Quentin Snider and Raymond Spalding from a 14-loss team—not to mention a second consecutive offseason with a head coaching change—it seemed like the Cardinals would be an NIT team at best.

They didn’t have a single scholarship freshman in this year’s class, and the only particularly noteworthy returning players were V.J. King and Malik Williams. And neither of those players had come close to living up to their hype coming out of high school.

Yet, somehow Chris Mack came in and immediately cobbled together a contender.

Louisville already has wins over Michigan State (at home) and North Carolina (at Chapel Hill), and it put up solid fights in neutral-site losses to Tennessee and Marquette in November. The Cardinals entered February tied with Duke and Virginia for first place in the ACC with a 7-1 record and look like a No. 3 or a No. 4 seed for an NCAA tournament they weren’t expected to make.

Jordan Nwora (17.9 PPG, 7.7 RPG) has had one of the best sophomore-year breakouts in the nation, and transfers Steven Enoch and Christen Cunningham have been even better than advertised.

But the biggest transformation has been a product of the coaching change.

Last year, Louisville was not a good rebounding team, and it struggled to get to the free-throw line. Basically, the Cardinals shied away from contact for four months. But that timidity doesn’t fly under Mack, as his teams at Xavier always rebounded at a high level and earned a ton of trips to the charity stripe. With that newfound mentality of toughness, Louisville is back to its usual role as a borderline top-10 team.

—A proposed California bill would allow college athletes in the state to get paid, but not by the NCAA.

—The first U of L men’s soccer spring schedule of the John Michael Hayden era has been released.

—The U of L women will hope to have more luck in the Muhammad Ali-themed unis tonight against Syracuse than the men had last weekend against North Carolina.

—Tom Thibodeau was born to be on TV.

—Todd Grantham is reportedly a top candidate to be the new defensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals.

—On the latest episode of the Sidelines podcast, Evan Daniels names Dwayne Sutton as one of the most under-appreciated players in the country.

—The ACC Digital Network identifies Jordan Nwora as one the league’s biggest surprise players.

”Historically weak bubble” season has arrived.

—Arizona has suspended assistant coach Mark Phelps over an NCAA rules issue — reportedly involving the academics of former commit, and current UCLA freshman, Shareef O’Neal (Shaq’s kid). It’s looking more and more like Arizona might be setting the stage for life without Sean Miller.

—Rush the Court goes inside the numbers in the ACC.

—Jeff Greer writes about (Athletic link) Khwan Fore setting the tone for Louisville’s much-improved defense.

Throughout this season, any mention of Dwayne Sutton lights up Mack’s face. Sutton is the quintessential college hoops player with a seemingly endless supply of energy and hustle. But last week, Mack said Fore has always belonged in that conversation too, saying the veteran guard brings the same effort and basketball je ne sais quoi.

“He’s very selfless,” Mack says. “He takes a lot of pride on that end of the floor. He’s extremely quick. He has great anticipation. He’s a tough kid. Usually, if you have those kinds of ingredients, you can be a really good defender.”

All of that is why Mack changed his recipe for games. After Fore was in and out of the starting lineup during the nonconference portion of the schedule, Mack made him the starter at off-guard once league play commenced. Fore has started each of the past nine games, and game film and his opponents’ numbers show why Mack’s move made sense.

On Monday, the coaching staff laid it out plain and simple for Fore: He was going to lead the charge in guarding Virginia Tech’s Nickeil Alexander-Walker, a projected first-round pick in the June NBA Draft. Tech was depleted, missing injured standout point guard Justin Robinson, so keying in on Alexander-Walker, the Hokies’ leading scorer, figured to be a major factor in determining the game’s outcome.

—The U of L baseball team will be holding a Red-White Scrimmage at Jim Patterson Stadium on Friday. The event is free and open to the public.

—Gary Parrish has Louisville all the way up at No. 9 in his daily rankings for CBS.

—I am very excited for Chris Mack’s over the top enthusiastic halftime interview on Saturday.

—Jeff Goodman talked with 12 players who have had to defend Zion Williamson this season about that experience.

—Lamar Jackson is one of the reasons NFL fans are so excited about the future of the 2018 rookie class.

—Speling is tuff.

—Per usual, the NBA trade deadline was nuts. Here are the winners and losers.

—Eric Crawford recaps Scott Satterfield’s first National Signing Day.

—Google Fiber is abandoning Louisville.

—Adam Sandler paid the Louisville basketball team a visit on Wednesday.

—Last night in the ACC:

Clemson 65, Georgia Tech 42
Miami 62, Notre Dame 47

No games tonight in the league.

—Syracuse AD John Wildhack talks about why the school made the unusual choice of scheduling Clemson for its homecoming game. Good luck with that.

—Top five U of L athletics plays from January:

—Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician previews tonight’s tilt between the Cards and the Orange.

—Tar Heel Blog has Louisville at No. 4 in its ACC power rankings.

—And finally, beat Syracuse.